When Twitter first made headlines, I was rather unimpressed – not only was I not interested in what various celebrities were having for lunch, I couldn’t see why anyone would be interested in my plate of sandwiches (cottage cheese, since you ask).
Then, I started to write this blog, and found that by posting my creation to Twitter, I could automatically notify my contacts on LinkedIn. That was when it dawned on me that Twitter is nothing more than a standard messaging protocol, more useful for passing messages between different web applications than as a product in it’s own right.
Where does Crystal Reports fit into this? One very disappointing feature in Crystal is alerting. In the standalone product, you get a pop up box listing your alerts when you run a report. For scheduled reports in Crystal Server and Business Objects Enterprise, a user has to login to see if there are any alerts – not very useful for people who are mobile or have ‘real’ work to do. So, why don’t we combine the market-leading reporting application with the messaging power of Twitter? Users can receive alerts with the Twitter client of their choice, with the alerts being generated using trusted business reports. Even better, use the scheduling capability of of Crystal Server or Business Objects Enterprise to automate the whole process!
Security – Your Tweets don’t have to be public. Change the Twitter account to be ‘protected‘, then people have to be approved to see your Tweets. Alternatively, send a direct message to a specific user. Limitations – there have to be some!
- You can’t post duplicate Tweets within 24 hours. If you want to notify a salesperson that Joe Bloggs has just placed an order, just add the order number or the current time to ensure it’s unique. Alternatively, just leave as is, if you don’t want the salesperson to receive the same notification twice.
- There is a limit of 250 direct messages per day and 1000 updates (tweets) per day.
How does it work? Crystal Reports allows the formula language to be extended using ‘User Function Libraries’ (UFLs). I wrote Crystal Tweet to allow a Twitter function to be added to Crystal. Once installed, and authorised to work with your Twitter account, you can use the functions in any Crystal Report. The function (PTechCrystalTweetSendTweet) appears in the Function tree under Additional Functions, COM and .Net UFLs.Here:
The other function PTechCrystalTweetSendDirectMessage() allows you to send a direct message to another Twitter account. All you need to do then is to add a string (plain text and/or database fields/other formulae) and off it goes. Further information and details of how to authorise the function are over at Pursuit Technology
I’ve only really thought about using Crystal Reports & Twitter together to send company alerts. I’d love to hear of any other ideas for combining the two.
** I’ve had a couple of emails from people with problems with the installer. Looks like there may have been a problem at my ISP. I’ve uploaded a fresh copy of the installer, and all should now be fine. Thanks for notifying me of the problem **